The All-America Flower Selections program is an awards program for new flower and vegetable introductions, grown from seeds, which must bloom the first year in the case of flowers. In the past, winners were released to display gardens a year prior to their public introduction for sale. This year marks the first time winners are being released for sale as they are announced.
The four flower winners previously selected for 2010 include the compact, yellow blanket flower 'Mesa Yellow'. 'Twinny Peach' is a snapdragon with butterfly, double peach flowers-- a snapdragon without flowers that go snap when pinched! 'Endurio Sky Blue Martien' is the latest viola winner, flowers under an inch across and a sky blue. 'Zahara Starlight Rose' is a new zinnia, about a foot tall, that stands out with its white flowers and contrasting rose-red centers.
The most recently announced award winners for 2010 include two more zinnias in the Zahara series: 'Double Zahara Cherry' and 'Double Zahara Fire'.
The former is of course a cherry pink, the latter is a rich reddish orange, and both are double with many petals. All three winners in this series of zinnias are about a foot high and wide, with flowers 2 inches or more across. Being a cross of more than one species, this Zahara series has good resistance to leaf spot and powdery mildew diseases. Plan on a couple months from sowing to first flowers.
There is a marigold winner this year, the first one in several years. 'Moonsong Deep Orange' is a hybrid African type. Some prefer to call these American marigolds, as this genus is originally from Mexico to South America, not Africa. This marigold gets about a foot high, and should be spaced about a foot apart. Its dense, double flowers are a deep orange and about 3 inches across. Start seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost when you can plant outside. Unlike many newer annuals you find for sale now that need lots of fertilizer, too much fertilizer for this one will give lots of green leaves with few flowers.
The only vegetable winner for this year is a globe-shaped watermelon. 'Shiny Boy' has red flesh, dark seeds, a sweet tropical flavor, and a crisp texture. It is a vigorous hybrid, with vines growing up to 12 feet and fruit reaching 20 pounds. Start checking fruit for ripeness about 75 days from transplanting. It tolerates severe weather, and can be grown in vertical gardens (with proper support given, of course, for the fruit such as a mesh bag or cloth sling).
Look for seeds in mail-order catalogs, and seed racks this spring at your local garden store. For more details on these and past All-America winners, visit their website (www.all-americaselections.org).